Well, I have completed my first outdoor run in Dubai and all I can say is "OMG!!"
We have been in Dubai for just over a week now. I have been fortunate enough to track down one of the local running clubs – the Dubai Creek Striders – and met with them for their Friday morning long run. Now, a long run on a Friday may sound pretty funny but what you need to remember is that Dubai is an Arab city and Friday is the holy day so is comparable to a Sunday. The weekends here are Friday and Saturday with the first day of the working week being Sunday. Also it is presently Ramadan – the Islamic holy month which means that the Muslims are fasting between sun-up and sun-down. It is illegal to eat or drink in public during Ramadan ... pretty much all of the cafe's, restaurants and food courts are closed during this time as well.
Anyway, I headed out with the group for a run which was meant to be somewhere between 15-18km (9-11mi). Should've been a walk in the park, right? We kicked off around 6 am and the sun was already up and the temperature was rising from 90F up and up. Coming from Texas I would've strapped on my fuel belt and just gone with the flow.... but in Dubai things are done a bit differently. For starters, no one wears a fuel belt. They stop as gas stations every 2-3km and the person who is in charge of the group goes and buys some plastic cups and large bottles of cold water along with some sports drinks if people want them.
The groups sort of broke up into a fast group, a fast slow group (9-10min/mi pace) and a slower slow group.... by pure accident I found myself with the fast slow group who for the first water stop (at 2.2mi) were with the fast group. Ooops!! Those first two miles were run at 9.30 pace for me – which for a slow long run in the heat is too fast. When I asked where the others were, I was told that someone got a bit excited and we bypassed the first water stop and had subsequently split beyond the point of no return. So, I was stuck running the next 3.4 mi with this group to the next water stop.
Around the 3.5mi mark I was regretting not bringing my fuel belt, despite the legal ramifications of drinking in public. I was parched. By the time myself and two other fellows reached it, the other 25 or so runners were taking off on the next leg. Someone stayed behind to buy us some water and one gent offered to walk back to the starting point with me. I was tempted to keep running, but being separated from the group and not knowing if the slower group was going to come past or not I did not want to tempt fate and try to navigate the roads on my own. I am not familiar with the land marks to identify the route.
So three of us ran / walked back to the car park. It worked out OK. All up I ran 6 mi with an average of 10.15 pace. The two other fellows filled me in on the local races and international races that most of the group trains for. Also information about some of the other running groups with details for where and when they meet. This group has definitely an international flavor with most being super super fast. I know I am not fast, but that doesn't bother me at all - I have my goals and training plan so I know what I should be doing. Most of these runners are seasoned marathoner and ultra runners - it was awesome chatting to them about their next race ... you know, South Africa, Europe, UK, US... I even met some fast fast runners who will be running New York!
So all I need to do now is to start building my mileage (AGAIN). It will definitely be a challenge in these conditions. Fingers crossed!!